Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ice Blue by Anne Stuart

Museum curator Summer Hawthorne considered the exquisite ice-blue ceramic bowl given to her by her beloved Japanese nanny a treasure of sentimental value — until somebody tried to kill her for it.

The priceless relic is about to ignite a global power struggle that must be stopped at all costs. It’s a desperate situation, and international operative Takashi O’Brien has received his directive: everybody is expendable. Everybody. Especially the woman who is getting dangerously under his skin as the lethal game crosses the Pacific to the remote and beautiful mountains of Japan, where the truth can be as seductive as it is deadly…

I thought this a poor imitation of Cold As Ice. Essentially the same plot, but without the depth of characterization. Neither the hero nor heroine ever really cemented for me; I finished the book without ever feeling a connection or care for either one. This was especially disappointing given the potential Stuart had to delve into the trauma Takashi suffered at the end of Cold As Ice. I expected that to have shaped him more, but in the end, I saw him as nothing more than a paper assassin, one readers were simply required to accept.

I also took issue with the degree of his disregard for the heroine. Yes, he kept pulling back, just short of killing her. But he spent little to no time thinking about the “why.” Stuart pretty much left it as mind and body acting separately—his physical actions occurring of their own volition while reiterations of his order to kill marched on in his head. There wasn’t any real struggle or attempt to reconcile the two. And without that internal conflict, his ultimate decision to let her live lacked significance.

His disregard for her on the sexual plane bothered me as well. Stuart combines Summer’s childhood molestation with her ever-dawning realization that Takashi means to kill her to create an almost debilitating fear in her. Almost debilitating. And that was the problem for me. She manages a rigid control, escaping hysteria—all the while nursing a physical attraction to her would be assassin. Again, not enough internal conflict on this point. Summer did spend time thinking about it, but it lacked development. And I’m sorry, but fear is a more powerful motivator than sexual attraction in my mind. Allowing her character to fall into a quiet resignation of her fate made no difference.

As for Takashi, I saw little justification for his actions (he already had the information he needed) and no remorse. It wasn’t enough for me that he felt the attraction and sexual need (and release) too. To me, his own actions bordered on molestation—another significant disappointment given my particular admiration for the ruthlessness of a Stuart hero. Somehow, in Ice Blue, Stuart misjudged, giving us the ruthlessness of Takashi’s frozen surface without ever revealing the color or life below.

Which brings me to another point, character molds. Stuart is known for her ruthless heroes. I usually love them and, to be honest, seek out her titles specifically for “that” character. IOW, I don’t mind similarities in characters cast from the same mold between her books. I don’t, however, want the author to take it to the extreme, assigning the same physical traits, neuroses, etc. from one book to the next. And Stuart does exactly that with her heroines—at least between Cold As Ice and Ice Blue. Enough already about the woman’s physical size—a mention sure, but not a topic worthy of this much attention. And again, attention without development.

And there it is, attention without development. The overall key to my disappointment in Ice Blue. Stuart failed to pull me under, into the depths…of character or conflict. And ultimately, as a ‘surface’ read, it was just ok. A far, far cry from the breathtaking Cold As Ice.


  1. Hey Jennifer!

    A harsh review, but I think you're correct. There's many thing I couldn't comment on, because I haven't read Cold as Ice yet... but yeah, this book was really just so-so

  2. Hey Nath - Having read...and LOVED...Cold As Ice, I couldn't help but be disappointed. It was so like it--that alone turned me off.

  3. I have this book and the other 2 in the series in my pile to be read, along with 350 other books, so I suppose I'll get to them one day. Thanks for the review.

  4. I couldn't help but agree with the last part of your review. While reading Ice Blue,I got a sense that I was reading photocopies with the names changed to suit the titles. All heroes had dark hair and golden skin. Even the Japanese Takashi. Aren't Japanese men supposed to be have skin of alabaster? And the heroines were all curvy blondes who wished they were a size smaller. And then there were the bedroom moves, which were the same in every book. I suppose each book was fine by itself. But together, they just... served to highlight Stuart's weaknesses and slipshod work (i feel)


Have you read it? What do you think?

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